Grant Allen helps a pair of brothers shop and cook from scratch.

The big black clouds hanging westward over the vicinity of the Avondale market were not going to deter this adventure. The boys were on a mission.

There had been heavy early rain and more was threatening but a break of sunshine saw us arm ourselves with umbrellas and take off.

Finn McAteer, 15, and his younger brother Harper, 8, had been commissioned to help in a story about older kids cooking for the family during the school holidays. Taking them to a market seemed like a good place to start. They could check out what was on offer, and with a little subtle input from the grown-ups, come up with some ideas of things they could cook. And they did.

Avondale Market is unique. It is raw, a true market in the nature of global village markets. It does not pretend to be quasi-European, quaint country, or a farmers' market. Its stallholders are there to supply everything and anything the punters may want. You can get cheap vegetables, great coffee, trash and treasure, a kite, a fake-label watch, a coconut or roast-pork bun, sign a political petition and be entertained by a pan flute or an African drum busker.


There are puddles, there are pushy people with their market trolleys, it's not always polite. It is about trading; getting the best price through bargaining, as any true market should be.

It is colourful, a representation of the many ethnic groups that make up Auckland in 2012. It provides new immigrants with a chance to make a start in commerce, from the Middle Eastern refugees selling used tools to the lovely old Chinese woman squatting in front of her table of home-grown spring onions. There are more established traders with bigger stands who sell all manner of vegetables known to man, but not necessarily to me. Many Asian restaurants shop here for their weekly supplies. You can buy the most amazing variety of Thai herbs, the widest range of Chinese vegetables, Indian supplies such as fresh turmeric and okra, duck eggs (aged or fresh), quail eggs, Japanese seasonings, noodles, intriguing takeaways, whole coconuts. A visit is a chance to learn about the food culture of our new arrivals. It's the best people-watching spot in town on an early Sunday morning (the market runs from 6am-midday).

I loved the sign saying "walking chicken". That equates to free range ...

We did try a few new things. Harper got his taste buds in action with dried shrimp and fresh kaffir lime. We ate steamed roast-pork buns, tasted vegetables we didn't know the names of, but in the end our shopping was relatively prosaic.

We bought watercress, smoked fish, fruit, potatoes, kumara, noodles, choy sum, three peppers, mushrooms, eggs, 1 tomato (still expensive even here), spring onions, beans, a few peas, limes (cheap), coriander, garlic chives, a carrot, spinach and a head of garlic. It was a great lesson in price comparison and how you can buy only what you need, for example, one carrot instead of a pre-packed bag.

This is what we made. Give this spread to your teenager and ask them to pick something to cook for the family tonight.

In the kitchen, the boys gave these recipes a try:
* Smoked fish cakes
* Frittata and salad
* Prawn noodles
* Finn's energy smoothie